Handy Helpful Blog

Preparing to Empty a Relative’s Home…

Emptying a home that has been lived in for many years can seem like a daunting experience.  Here are some key points to remember to help in the process:
  1. Divide the tasks: Reach out to family and friends. Do not be shy; accept all the help you can that is at your disposal.
  • Make a list of tasks, financial papers, clothing, jewelry, kitchen items, linens, etc.
  • Try to assign 1 or 2 tasks to each person.
  1. Thoroughness is essential: Digging through drawers, closets, pockets, and containers could be harrowing, but you never know what could be hidden away for safe keeping.
  • Often people tuck cash and jewelry into pockets. Personally, I know every winter I find some cash in my coat pockets. Also, whenever I change my purse, inevitably there is something I was looking for.(MORE: How Much More Stuff Do We Really Need?)
  1. Locate all important documents.
  • First, find and put aside any will, trusts, and addenda; life insurance policies and statements, real estate deeds and titles; recent bank statements (you can get older ones electronically); stock certificates; 401(k) records; tax returns and receipts necessary for filing next year’s income tax return.
  • Contact an attorney regarding the transfer of assets to named beneficiaries.
  1. Contact an appraiser to value furniture, jewelry and antiques.
  • This accredited professional will give you estimates for each item. They will charge an hourly fee which will vary depending on location and the type of appraisal you are seeking. For a general appraisal, you may pay anywhere from $75 to $250 an hour. These appraisals usually take one to three hours.
  • For fine art and antiques appraisal, the cost is usually about $300 an hour.
  • These professionals will also advise you of the options to where and how sell of the property.
  • The American Society of Appraisers is an accredited organization offering continuous education for its members to provide the most up-to-date information.
  • We recommend checking the appraiser’s site to determine whether he/she has any specialized training.
  1. When it comes to the belongings, remember that family comes first.
  • It would be a good idea to have the family members come together and divide these belongs as equally as possible.
  1. Preserve sentimental photos and memorabilia.
  • These are more than sentimental, and they are irreplaceable. Be sure to scoop them up and preserve them, then share with the family.
  1. The strategy of whether to donate or sell clothing.
  • Most clothing has little to no resale value, vintage clothes may be more valuable through a consignment shop. The downside is most consignment shops will price the clothing low and keep 50% and after a month it will be discounted further.
  • Another option is to sell these items on auction sites such as eBay.
  • More than likely, your best recourse would be charitable donations. There are many organizations to choose from, Goodwill, Salvation Army even Dress for Success for a business wardrobe.
  1. Consider an Estate Sale
  • Once you have determined what you are keeping and what is junk, considering a professional estate sale company to eliminate as much of the rest of the belongings. For a fee of around $600 they will come in set everything up, post pictures to the website and conduct the sale for 2 to 3 days.
  1. Bring in a liquidator or hauler
  • Once the estate sale is complete, a liquidator is someone who, for a fee, will clear out whatever is left after you have decided what to keep, sell, give away or junk.
  • Some companies will haul everything for a fee (which will depend on the size of the disposal). But be careful. “There are unscrupulous people who will pick up your parents’ lifelong possessions and disappear before they’ve paid you,” Hall warns. Find out how many years the liquidator or hauler has been in business, make sure the pro is bonded and insured and get a written contract, along with two recent references.(MORE: The Art of Shedding Possessions)
  1. One last tip: Consider the cleaning-out job a labor of love.
  • As Emily Dickinson put it “solemnest of industries enacted upon Earth.” Once completed, there is a feeling of contentment, a storm of precious memories that will stay with you always.